Time to put LOCAL Television on the Web

November 10, 2005

Broadband is everywhere, let’s use it

If two guys in their basement with a server and a T-1 line can use the Internet to broadcast, then so should local broadcasters. If Apple can use the Internet to deliver previously aired episodes of Lost, then so should local broadcasters. Because of technological advancements it is now possible to put boundaries on the Internet. I know because we built them. Those boundaries make it feasible to bring network television – synchronous and asynchronous – to the web. Let’s do it. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is a tremendous opportunity.

The Internet is global and broadcasting is local

We all know the Internet is global. No arguing that. In contrast, broadcasting is local. We may not all know that. Where there is one ABC affiliate there are 201 others. Each one owns the exclusive rights to broadcast to viewers within their over-the-air reach. What does that mean? It means if you’re in LA then you get Desperate Housewives from ABC affiliate KABC. If you are in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, you get it from ABC affiliate KCRG.

Eliminate the middle man

When cable came around years ago, broadcasters signed retransmission agreements to get carriage. Thus, the advent of the middle man. When DBS needed network television to ensure the success of their platform, broadcasters signed retransmission agreements to ensure carriage via local-into-local. Thus, another middle man. Because no one owns the Internet, I think broadcasters should sign retransmission agreements with themselves. No middle man required. All we need to do to protect and preserve our system of free over-the-air television is add over-the-web. What does that mean? It means that if a viewer can get a signal with an antenna than they should and ought to get that same signal via the web. Simple.

The Internet also provides a solution to the must-carry situation

Use the Internet. That’s right, one solution to the must-carry debate is simple. Let broadcasters, local broadcasters, carry their own signals. Carry their own signals? How? Simple. Use the Internet. Cable doesn’t want to carry the signals? Fine. DBS doesn’t have the necessary capacity? Fine. Let’s do it ourselves. Broadcasters don’t need cable. Broadcasters don’t need DBS. They have everything they need. Both broadcasters and viewers have access to high speed. Use it.

Why the sudden rush?

Because all of a sudden everyone has figured out that the Internet makes a perfect vehicle for delivering content. Companies have figured out how to get entertainment content to cell phones, PDA’s, entertainment servers, and etc. Two things are happening. First, there is a proliferation of non-network content. We’ve already lost enough market share to the likes of CNN, HBO, etc. Second, really smart companies like Apple, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft more than likely already see the value of great network programming (think Apple/Desperate Housewives), but fail to see that it is the local broadcasters who own the exclusive rights to broadcast that content. It is time for local broadcasters to tell all would-be middlemen that we can handle the distribution of content over the web without you.

After all, they are your viewers.